Tether's Mysterious Crash: Is the Money Really There?


Tether is a crypto, supposedly pegged to the dollar. On Oct 14, it fell to $0.86. Long-standing concerns surfaced again.

I will get to the new concerns in a moment, but first let's review how Tether works as well as the long-standing suspicions.

Please consider the Wall Street Journal April 12, 2018 article on the Mystery Behind Tether, the Crypto World’s Digital Dollar.

> A fast-growing digital currency that claims to be backed by U.S. dollars has become a cornerstone of the volatile cryptocurrency market. The problem: There isn’t hard evidence the cash supporting it exists.

> Unlike other cryptocurrencies that fluctuate wildly in value, one tether generally equals one dollar. This makes it a sort of digital-dollar substitute.

> But Tether has never produced an audit showing it has the purported reserves. The company that controls tether maintains it has the reserves, yet it has never named the banks it uses to hold these funds, nor said where they are based and regulated.

> Tether Ltd. marketed its cryptocurrency as a way to mediate the sector’s volatility—offering the safety of the dollar along with the speed and anonymity of a digital currency. The pitch worked. Tether’s market value has risen steadily over the past 18 months, to $2.4 billion from about $10 million at the beginning of 2017. That has made it a crucial link in the wider cryptocurrency market.

> As a result, tether has become a key source of liquidity. At times this summer, tether has represented as much as 80% of bitcoin trading volume, according to research site CryptoCompare. When the year began, it accounted for about 10% of bitcoin trading volume.

> Nearly half of tether’s trading volume is among just a handful of tether-accepting exchanges, including some of the market’s largest.

Red Flags

Since the inception of Tether, there have been a huge number of red flags. The WSJ mentions a few of them.

  • “There are a couple of forces in this market that if they failed, it would be catastrophic,” said Ding’An Fei, a managing partner at Ledger Capital, a digital asset investment firm in Beijing. “Tether is one of them.”
  • Chainalysis also found tether trading is increasingly concentrated among smaller, more speculative digital currencies, a sign it is being used as a tool of “pump-and-dump” schemes, in which traders hype an asset, causing its price to rise, before dumping it for a profit.
  • Tether trading in newer tokens such as EOS and NEO has risen to about 20% of overall tether volume, according to the report.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission recently singled out tether in its rejection of a proposed bitcoin-based ETF, citing studies that raised the possibility that the digital currency is being used to manipulate the bitcoin market.

Recent Plunge

With that backdrop out of the way, please consider the Tether Death Spiral by cryptocurrency trader Hans Hauge.

> There are so many red flags around Tether, I don't know where to start.

> Bitcoin priced in Tether spiked to a premium of $1,000 above the market average on exchange Bitfinex, which owns Tether. The same thing that happened right before Mt. Gox collapsed. Tether traded as low as $0.86 on the Kraken exchange in the last 48 hours.

> First, Tether adds liquidity to the market, but it's based on a lie. They're supposed to have $2.5 billion in the bank, but do they? These funds are how they control the price of Tether, keeping it pegged to the US dollar. In other words, Tether should always be worth $1.00.

> You notice that the Tether price starts to drop. It's gone from $1.00 to $0.98 over the last couple days. People are getting nervous, and meanwhile, Bitcoin starts going up in price on Bitfinex. Then you get an email about "possible restrictions on withdrawals for some users." In other words, you might not be able to get your money out. What do you do?

> The answer you should have arrived at is just dump your Tether for Bitcoin!

Hauge notes that the price of Bitcoin to Tether spiked over $1,000 as people were unable to withdraw funds.

Banking Dilemma

>Bitfinex lost their relationship with Wells Fargo back, but that's old news now.

> As they hop from bank to bank trying to stay afloat, it is already being reported that their relationship with HSBC is done after just about one week!

> Apparently, a new bank has taken the stage from Hong Kong, called "PROSPERITY REVENUE MERCHANDISING LIMITED." Does anyone care to bet on how long this relationship will last?

> Oh, and this new bank... it's four months old.

​Rongli? Prosperity Revenue?

Image placeholder title

Head for the Hills

Hauge concludes, and I agree "If you own Tether, run for the hills."

Is the money there? Who knows? I don't. But long-standing suspicions suggest it isn't.

Fraud Possibility

Here's another possibility, even if the money is there:

Tether purposely creates these illiquid situations. Since it can time them, it can profit from them.

Dear Customers: You cannot do withdrawals. ...

Ahead of such operations, Tether invests in Bitcoin knowing it will spike. Then Tether sells Bitcoin before sending the "all clear" signal.

That is just one of many possibilities. And of course the money might not be there at all and it is necessary for Tether to pull off these scheme to put back siphoned money.

Either way, and especially considering the WSJ's suspicions, I have a bit of advice.

Get Out Now!

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (19)
No. 1-9

Is there 1 dollar held safe somewhere for every 1 tether in circulation?

I am guessing most likely not.

This will further crash crypto currencies which have no value.

Somebody could take pink post-it notes and claim they are each units of currency and it would be the same as crypto currencies. The only difference would be that pink post-it notes would not need lots of electricity (which costs actual dollars) to keep the currency operating.

With tulip bulbs one could always grow beautiful tulips...


Greedy imbeciles speculating in "imaginary" electronic ledger entries deserve all the misery they have coming to them.


yep, blame the used car buyer, not the used car salesman... aka, blame the victim, not the con man...


They part of this story that sets off alarm bells for me is the bank switches. If Tether has $2.5 billion in the bank, just sitting there, every bank would want them as a customer.


I am surprised this is even up for discussion. Tether has broken the buck, badly. If there is actually US$1 securing each Tether then someone with inside knowledge would be exploiting the arbitrage by buying Tethers at a discount hand-over-fist until the price returns to $1. Since that is not happening, less than all of the money is there.

Based on what I have read, the main purpose of Tether is as an intermediary trading vehicle to synthetically get in and out of short term crypto trades more quickly and cheaply (because transitioning between crypto and US dollars is too difficult).

No thanks.


Tether is a great idea cursed by the inability to retain banking at the behest of the banking cabal. It's use case exploded in volume last year - price arbitraging across exchanges. The problem they have is that retaining USD banking for them is impossible - hence the inability to audit - the instant the banks are known they are threatened with removal from Swift unless they terminate Tether accounts. People seem to delight/root for it's failure - I don't really understand why as this technology will free us from banker strangleholds. Doesn't it scare the be-jesus out of you to consider that in a cashless world you can simply be censured/starved out of existence? In 2010 the USG did it best to terminate Wikileaks and only Bitcoin remained as the way to fund the unfundable. You all might root for a Brave New World/1984 - personally I don't.

Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike Mish Shedlock


Thanks to CautiousObserver

Mike Mish Shedlock
Mike Mish Shedlock


Thanks to CautiousObserver


I'm more convinced than ever that precious metals and real estate are the safest widely held holds of value. Things that can't be conjured out of thin air.

Global Economics